Thursday, June 12, 2008

Peter S. Williams on the Abolition of Man

And how it relates to eugenics today.

6 comments:

Ilíon said...

Mr Reppert,
What is interesting to me is that it appears that you (despite being a strong proponent of the AfR) still don't seem to grasp, still don't seem to have internalized, the knowledge that atheism is utterly refuted ... by itself.

Ilíon said...

Williams: "While aesthetic utterances certainly have a subjective aspect, assertions of the type “That waterfall is sublime” or “This Holocaust is beautiful” are matters of objective truth or falsehood (the first assertion was probably true, while the second is certainly false)."

Well, no, the first assertion is not probably true; it may, in fact, be as false as the second assertion is.

Mr Williams, it seems, hasn't followed through on the reasoning.

Let's back up:
Williams: "... Lewis begins his counterattack on the subjectivism adopted and propagated by Gaius and Titus by pointing out that: “the man who says This is sublime cannot mean I have sublime feelings ... The feelings which make a man call an object sublime are not sublime feelings, but feelings of veneration.” The correct “translation” of the tourist’s assertion, if a translation must take place, would be “I have humble feelings.”
...
If a “humble” feeling of “veneration” prompts Coleridge’s agreement that the waterfall is sublime, we may ask
whether that feeling was an appropriate response to its object. In other words, aesthetic delight may be appropriate or inappropriate relative not to the person doing the appreciating, but to the nature of the object being appreciated. ... "

So far, so good, as Mr WIlliams follows Lewis in giving us (pace Coleridge) the "corrected translation" of the statement that "This [waterfall] is sublime."

But, the question is: *is* it appropriate to feel humbled by or veneration towards a waterfall? Now, it is certainly true that must of us will experience such an emotion in such a situation, but is it appropriate?

Of course it isn't.

We "theists" -- knowing that God is the proper object of such emotions -- can say "This [waterfall] is pretty" and point our worshipful emotion towards the Creator. But the poor non-theist, it appears, is relegated to worshipping water tumbling over a rock!


Judaism and Christianity banished the ghosts in nature -- we waved away the illusion of Nature.

Our naturalists, it seems, must attempt an odd reversal of the work of Biblical religion: they must banish the ghosts from themselves so that Nature may again live.

Peter S. Williams said...

There is, I think, a difference between 'venerating' and 'worshipping'. There is, I think, a middle path between idolitary and a refusal to value or enjoy the creation!

As a Christian theist I believe worship (at least in the robust sense that goes beyond its meaning ain a phrase like 'hero worship') is properly reserved for God alone. And, indeed, I think the non-theist, while he is able to recognize beauty (just as he is able to recognize goodness) is unable to furnish a metaphysical account of reality capable of acommodating this appreciation of beauty. I believe that Beauty, like goodness, points to its ultimate source in God, 'the maximally beaituful being'. Just as judgements of moral value (being objective) contain an implicit reference to God as the objective standard of goodness (cf. the moral argument), so I believe judgements of aesthetic value likewise point towards the nature of God as the absolute standard of beauty. Thus it is in corectly ('ordinately', as Lewis says) appreciating the beauty of the waterfall etc. that we are simultaneously led to appreciate the surpassing beauty of God himself; and it is this beauty - the beauty of God - that is the propper subject of worship in the robust sense. It is of course the recognition of the latter that, practically speaking, prevents the recognition of the former from becoming inordinate. Thus I believe that we can and should exhibit an ordinate response to the beauty around us in nature - we can delight in a child's smile, treasure a tree, allow a night sky to instil in us a humble sense of our finitude, etc.; but a correct understanding of what we are thereby doing should lead us to worship the one to whom all beauties point. The art of creation leads us to acknowledge the Great Artist.

One might even say, to employ a distinction from Lewis, that to fully appreciate a waterfall one first has to 'look at' the waterfall, and to see its beauty, and to have an ordinate response to that beauty, and then to 'look along' the beauty of the waterfall to its source and standard of comparison: God.

Ilíon said...

Mr Williams: Hello!

Since I've criticised (part of) your essay, and since you've personally responded to that, it is only proper that I reply.

I don't have time right now ... it takes me hours, sometimes many hours, to think through and write up the point I attempt to argue, and I have to start the work-day in a few minutes. But, I will give serious thought to what you've said and reply.

Ilíon said...

Hmmmm. I can't seem to access Mr Williams' paper. In fact, I can't seem to acces the ARN site at all.

Ilíon said...

Peter S. Williams: "While aesthetic utterances certainly have a subjective aspect, assertions of the type “That waterfall is sublime” or “This Holocaust is beautiful” are matters of objective truth or falsehood (the first assertion was probably true, while the second is certainly false)."

Ilíon: "Well, no, the first assertion is not probably true; it may, in fact, be as false as the second assertion is.

Mr Williams, it seems, hasn't followed through on the reasoning. ...
"

Peter S. Williams: "There is, I think, a difference between 'venerating' and 'worshipping'. There is, I think, a middle path between idolitary and a refusal to value or enjoy the creation! ..."

I'm having difficulty accessing your paper/article, but I think I previously qouted enough of it relevant to my point. And, part of what I quoted appears to be you quoting Lewis. Perhaps even Lewis missed the specific point I'm trying to get at ... so, perhaps my criticism is also directed to Lewis.


The difference between 'venerating' and 'worshipping' is rather slight. 'Worship' might be called a super-set of 'veneration' (or 'veneration' called a sub-set of 'worship'). 'Worship' seems to be 'veneration' with the additional component of 'devotion.' And, while we typically use the word 'worship' to refer to attitudes and behaviors directed towards the Divine, the word can be properly used more broadly (cf. the Book of Common Prayer: "With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow.")


Certainly, I agree that there is "a middle path between idolitary and a refusal to value or enjoy the creation." That recognition was, after all, the basis of the criticism I offered.

It is appropriate to venerate persons, it is not appropriate to venerate waterfalls. It is appropriate to appreciate the beauty of a waterfall, it is not appropriate to venerate the waterfall. It is appropriate even to be overwhelmed by the beauty of a waterfall, it is never appropriate to venerate a waterfall.

If by the statement "This [waterfall] is sublime" one does indeed mean something like "I feel humbled when I compare myself to this waterfall," then one's response is not appropriate to the object. And especially if one means something like "I venerate this waterfall," then one's response is most inappropriate to the object, for one is then *worshipping* mere water tumbling over a rock.

But, in contrast, if by the statement "This [waterfall] is sublime" one means something more like "This waterfall possesses incomparable beauty" or even an emotive passive-construction "I am (over)awed by the incomparable beauty of this waterfall," then one's response is appropriate to the object. One is not worshipping a mere waterfall.


Peter S. Williams: "One might even say, to employ a distinction from Lewis, that to fully appreciate a waterfall one first has to 'look at' the waterfall, and to see its beauty, and to have an ordinate response to that beauty, and then to 'look along' the beauty of the waterfall to its source and standard of comparison: God."

Of course. But that is not the point of my criticism.

Lewis' main purpose is to show the self-defeating vacuousness of a certain sort of subjectivism, was it not? His purpose was to help us see that 'beauty' (and other such concepts) are real, have objective meaning, are not (pace the relativists/sunbectivists) merely words to denote a subjective emotion and therefore devoid of real content.